the 1938 discovery of nuclear fission,
Germany had a two-year head start on developing nuclear energy; the Americans'
fear was that the Nazis would shape it into a weapon of mass destruction.
Germany also had in its grasp two materials critical to its development
-- heavy water and uranium. They were available in abundance only in Norway
and Czechoslovakia, both under Nazi control.
In August 1939, Leo
Szilard and fellow Hungarian physicists Eugene Wigner and Edward Teller
urged Albert Einstein to sign a letter they had drafted for President Roosevelt.
Einstein's letter noted that the work of Fermi and Szilard "leads me to
expect that the element uranium may be turned into a new and important
source of energy in the near future." President Roosevelt responded by
appointing an Advisory Committee on Uranium. The Office of Scientific Research
and Development was established on June 28, 1941, under the direction of
Vannevar Bush, to develop atomic energy.
On December 6, the day before the
bombing of Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt authorized the Manhattan Engineering
District. This letter from Albert Einstein to President Franklin D. Roosevelt
led to the Manhattan Engineering District, also known as "the Manhattan
Project," a national crash program racing to develop atomic weapons before
Nazi Germany. The Manhattan Project was the seed that grew into the modern
national laboratory system, which today includes many non-weapons-research
laboratories, such as Argonne.
with >>> Albert
Einstein or The
History of the Atomic Bomb.